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We were blessed to be able to walk our son Moshe to his Chupa to marry his Kallah, Ahuva Sternstein on Tuesday evening. We are thankful to Hashem for everything!

The marriage/betrothal ceremony is called Kiddushin – which means sanctification. Before the groom slips the ring on the bride’s finger, he proclaims, “I hereby sanctify you to me with this ring – on the conditions of Moshe and Israel.”

Why is the act of marriage/betrothal called Kiddushin – sanctification? The Talmud explains that when a bride consents to be married to her groom he acquires her by giving her something of monetary value such as a ring. She is then exclusively designated to her groom and is now forbidden to have intimacy with anyone else. This is akin to when one designates something to the Temple – the item becomes exclusively sanctified for G-d’s Temple service to the exclusion of anything else. A married couple begin their life with sanctification which sets the tone for the rest of their marriage. They maintain and add to this sanctification by serving G-d and His Torah.

Since it is a special and sanctified time, those standing under the Chupa and those attending the ceremony take the opportunity to pray.

Additionally, our Sages tell us that the souls of the departed ancestors are in some way present at the Chupa ceremony.

My dear aunt who we affectionately called Tanta Shoshana o.b.m. related to me a story she read in a book authored by Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau of Israel. There was a survivor who developed demophobia, a fear of being in crowds.  Before this person’s wedding, care was taken that only a small number of people were in attendance and the people were spread out.

While the groom was standing under the Chupa awaiting the bride, Rabbi Lau noticed the groom, begin to perspire and shake. A few minutes later he quickly descended the Chupa platform and sat next to Rabbi Lau. Rabbi Lau asked him what had come over him; after all he was standing alone. He responded that he was a lone survivor of the Holocaust and as he was standing under the Chupa he felt surrounded by the souls of his departed relatives and he literally felt stifled by it and had a demophobia attack.

During the Chupa ceremony there are a number of honors given to either Rabbis, relatives or close friends. When a grandfather, uncle or at times a great-grandfather or great-uncle is called for an honor, the participants become emotional.

We were blessed that my father Rabbi Boruch Saks was in attendance at Moshe and Ahuva’s Chupa, and was called to recite the final blessing. My father had been extremely ill with Covid and was in an ICU for eight weeks and then was transferred to an acute care unit. Thank G-d he is OK but the effects of his lengthy intubation and a tracheostomy, has left him with difficulty speaking – it is strained and takes a lot out of him. During my father’s blessing a lady in attendance began to weep. When she composed herself, the person sitting next her asked if she was a relative. She said, “No, I’m actually related to the other side. However, I’m a nurse in the acute care facility where Rabbi Saks was a patient and was familiar with his condition. When I heard him recite the blessing it brought me to tears.”  I think the familiar slogan found around hospitals should read, Heroes – with a heart and compassion – work here!

While I’m on the subject of nurse heroes: My father was in the ICU under the excellent care of Jersey Shore Medical Center during the height of Covid and visitors were restricted. Our family got an updated report once a day, but not being able to visit and be with him was one of the most difficult things. Yes, my father was sedated but we felt that the isolation and the lack of hearing familiar voices encouraging him was detrimental to his drive to recover.

Our daughter-in-law Tova, got in touch with a wonderful nurse Chany Yosefzada, who during her lunch break would gear up and go into the ICU unit and enter rooms of Covid patients. She would hold her phone on speaker, to give family members on a conference line an opportunity to communicate with their loved ones. She noticed that even in a sedated mode, patients began making slight movements when they heard familiar voices.

Chany didn’t know us, or the many families that she did this Chesed to, yet she displayed heroism of heart and compassion beyond the call of duty. To our family, it was a beacon of light and hope to communicate with our father during the darkest of times.

The Torah relates that the Jews sang a song of thanks for the well of water that accompanied them during the time they were in the desert. What prompted them to sing praise at this point, 39 years after they received the well of Miriam?

Our Sages tell us that the Jews were to travel through a canyon. Their enemies arranged to ambush them while they were in the canyon. G-d clamped the canyon together to kill the enemy. The Jews passed by unaware of the miracle G-d did for them. The well then filled the canyon with water and it washed up the remains of the enemy that had been waiting to ambush them, making the miracle apparent to the Jews. This prompted them to immediately erupt in song for the well that G-d had provided for them all the years, and for all the miracles that they were unaware of!

Malki and I want to thank Hashem for all the miracles He has blessed us with – for those we know about and for those that are hidden from us! Thank you Hashem!